Research and Reports
The percentage of 3- and 4-year-old children enrolled in early-childhood-education programs has almost doubled in the last 13 years, from 21 percent in 1970 to 38 percent in 1983, according to a report published last week by the High/Scope Educational Research Foundation of Ypsilanti, Mich.
But the report, which was funded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York, also points out that there are not enough programs to meet the increased demand.
About 32 percent of 3- and 4-year-olds with mothers who are not in the labor force also are enrolled in such programs, notes Lawrence Schweinhart, the author of the report, "Early Childhood Development Programs3in the Eighties: The National Picture."
"The popularity of such programs may be due to recent studies that have underscored favorable long-term effects of high-quality preschool programs, especially for children at risk of school failure," he writes.
Other phenomena noted in the report:
The more income and education parents have, the more likely their preschool children are to be in early-childhood-education programs.
The major public funding source for pre-kindergarten programs is the federal government, through the dependent-care tax credit and the Child Care Food Program. But despite these services, federal agencies cannot meet the increasing demand for early-development programs.
State governments are assuming more responsibility than ever before for providing preschool education. Moreover, public schools in more than two-thirds of the states now offer pre-kindergarten child-development programs, and state funding for them is legislated in 14 states.
For a copy of the report, which is available for $5 prepaid, write to the High/Scope Press, 600 North River St., Ypsilanti, Mich. 48197, or call (313) 485-2000.
A psychologist at Case Western Reserve University has developed an infant intelligence test designed to identify the approximately 10 percent of children who, labeled at birth as being "at risk" for later "intellectual deficit," will actually be identified at age 3 or 4 as mentally retarded.
The screening device, according to Joseph F. Fagan 3rd, professor of psychology at the Cleveland university, will relieve the anxiety of the parents of the approximately 90 per-cent of at-risk infants who are later found to be of normal intelligence. And it will allow clinicians to focus costly early-intervention programs and resources on those children who will be retarded in later life.
Based on longitudinal studies of 3,000 to 4,000 infants from the age of several months to 3 years, Mr. Fagan determined that there is a correlation between how well infants can see and remember images and their later cognitive abilities. He tested at-risk infants several times between the ages of three and seven months by measuring how they responded to a series of pictures.
The infant's score on the test, Mr. Fagan explained, would identify whether he or she has the potential to experience cognitive difficulties in the post-infancy years.
Mr. Fagan has formed a small corporation in an attempt to raise funds to introduce his screening device to clinicians at 10 or 12 sites across the country. He said he hopes the device will be used by pediatricians, neonatologists, neurologists, clinical psychologists, and special educators who test at-risk infants.